Time to act on opportunities

TASMANIA is often spoken about as a place of unrealised potential.

While there is no single path to achieving that realisation, I have some thoughts and they're not about what government or anyone else should do for us.

They are about what we can do for ourselves.

We need to start with a fundamental shift in our self- perception. Our community seems to be split between people who are passionate drivers of innovation, believing that all things are possible, and those that see reasons why not at every turn, blaming others for their situation and complaining about what our governments do or do not deliver.

Given the power of that combined negative energy to hold us back, a shift in view that converts even a portion of that into a force for positive change would generate enormous economic and social value.

To progress that change we need to accept that the basis of our economy has already shifted. In the interest of focusing on the things that we can control, it's therefore time to look to the opportunities rather than dwelling on the costs.

If we just take a look, we will see the green shoots of opportunity all around us. My brother-in-law has just visited from his home in Europe and commented on the significant positive change he has seen in Tasmania over the past 10 years. More cultural diversity, new fresh produce, more opportunities to experience our natural and cultural environment.

This is increasing our profile globally where our friendliness, clean air, quality food and open spaces are highly valued.

But to truly harness this demand we need to raise the bar. Our entire community must strive to do what some individuals and groups are already doing - offering the very best in products and services, whether exported or delivered locally, or simply making a positive contribution to our social and political life.

There is one thing in particular that is in global demand, draws on a resource we've got and that we can produce without major capital investment or environmental harm. Customer service. World's best service that, with the right training, systems, and support, draws upon our natural qualities to deliver our products and services to the people who want them, when and where they want them, at a price they believe is fair to pay.

My own experience is that growing up in regional Australia builds values and skills that provide an excellent basis for customer service, and that those values and skills are readily transferable to other regional markets.

In order to succeed over the long term we have to be resourceful and focus on delivering excellent service to ensure we retain the relatively small customer base we have. It is no different in any other part of regional Australia. Tasmania's challenge is to build the skills to deliver service more consistently, knowing how quickly news of bad service travels.

Many great businesses have shown that you can ask a premium for even the most basic of commodities if the service on offer, including the story that goes with them, is strong. Our opportunity is to stand out in a world in which goods and services are being increasingly mass produced and distributed, and, at a time when people are seeking authenticity - something Tasmania has in spades.

It all starts in very small ways and it starts today. It's not someone else's responsibility. It's up to all of us to raise our view and realise our potential. In the words of one of Tasmania's most successful businessmen, you just goddawanna.

TIM GARDNER is owner and managing director of the Stornoway group of companies, which was named Business of the Year 2013 by the Launceston Chamber of Commerce.

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